Top 10 Monterey Experiences

Monterey is the best of the best that America has to offer. Unbelievable natural beauty meets amazing history. Science infuses art. And the cultural diversity of yesteryear mixes with contemporary times. It is a supernova melting pot: Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese and Italian fishermen of Cannery Row; Italian, Japanese, Mexican and Central American farmers, farm workers, and vintners of Salinas Valley; world class scientists, artists and educators; Big Sur bohemians; and tourists from all over the place. Monterey has been home to John Steinbeck, Doc Ricketts, Henry Miller, Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Robinson Jeffers, Robert Lewis Stevenson, Bob Dylan, and Joan Baez, among many others. And it’s now home to great institutions like Hopkins Marine Station, Middlebury’s Monterey Institute of International Studies, California State University Monterey Bay, the Naval Postgraduate School, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. People and places that inspire new ideas, creative collaborations, and close friendships. Here’s a list of my top 10 Monterey County experiences (with ostensible apologies to my friends who golf and know that I avidly don’t):

  1. Carmel Beach from sunrise to sunset. Day in, day out, there is no more serene, magical, spiritual place on earth than Carmel Beach, whether you’re walking, surfing, swimming, playing volleyball, or just sitting back and admiring the light and natural beauty.
  2. Strolling from Lovers Point to Monterey Bay Aquarium. Lovers Point remains wonderfully lost in 1950, a pocket beach with small snack bar and delightful sand volleyball court. If you enjoy the wonderful walk from Lovers to the Monterey Bay Aquarium you’ll pass by Hopkins Marine Station of Stanford University where the Monterey renaissance began in 1978, thanks to Chuck Baxter, Steve Webster, and Robin and Nancy Burnett who founded the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
  3. Sea Studios on Cannery Row. There a lot of stuff to see on Cannery Row, though its mostly schlock. But Sea Studios is the real deal, one of the last canneries on the Row, immediately adjacent to Doc Rickett’s original lab. If you’re a terrific Tassajara Meats customer you may be able to get a private tour from Mark Shelley. Otherwise, you’ll have to enjoy the view from the street.
  4. Running or walking Del Monte Beach. This beach, right next to Wharf #2, stretches for many miles north. It’s amazing how few people enjoy it, so it’s a great place to run anytime of year (unlike Carmel Beach which at times can be dog-infested).
  5. Summer festivals at Portola Plaza. Lots of great summer ethnic festivals. My favorites are the Greek and Italian festivals. Check out the Monterey County Weekly calendar.
  6. Hiking Garland Ranch Regional Park, Point Lobos, Soberanes Canyon or Andrew Molera State Park. There are a great many great places to hike in Monterey County, but these four we most frequently go.
  7. Coffee and pastries at East Village, if you want a quick meal, or breakfast at the Red House Cafe, if you want to linger a bit.
  8. Sunday afternoons at the Big Sur River Inn. A Big Sur institution, the River Inn offers wonderful music on Sunday afternoons. If you’re so inclined, you can enjoy sitting in the Little Sur River while listening to eclectic jazz, blue grass, or the Big Sur Natives.
  9. Sandwiches from Bruno’s Market enjoyed at Carmel’s Devendorf Park. After a morning of beach volleyball, my son and I often pick up sandwiches from Bruno’s and eat them at Devendorf Park across the street. The sandwiches are great, and the park is verdant and quaint.
  10. A sunset walk at Pfeiffer State Beach followed by drinks and, if you’re able to splurge, dinner at Post Ranch Inn. Two magical places, one natural, the other manmade. The walk is free, but expect the dinner to set you back considerably. However, for special occasions it’s worth it.